One of the great things about living in South East London, is having a myriad of different grocery shops to chose from, all within walking distance.
On route to my most regular choice of shop, I have the pleasure of walking through a small public garden – a lovely hidden gem, nestled in the middle of concrete pavements and busy traffic. I also walk through a couple of quiet, residential roads, with some pretty front gardens, which seem to be particularly abundant with colour this year.
One of them, in particular, always catches my eye! Standing proudly at the entrance to the property, is this wheelbarrow:
a barrow-full of surprises
Over the past few weeks I’ve watched the blooms inside this quirky container bud and flourish into an eye-catching display. Who knew a battered old wheelbarrow could become a thing of beauty? God’s glory can show up in some surprising places!
It inspired me, to scribble down these words in my notebook this morning:
Your new life within me,
Like blooms in a barrow,
Beauty for ashes,
And joy for my sorrow.
The bible, from beginning to end, is a story of redemption – God delights in choosing the broken, the worthless, the foolish things of this world, in order to display His glory.
2 Corinthians 4:7 puts it this way:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
If you look closely at the wheelbarrow, you’d notice signs of its previous existence – the deeply ingrained scuffs and scratches, the splatters of cement or paint. It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t make it any less lovely. What once was filled with rubbish, weighed down by its heavy load, is now brimming over with joyful beauty and vibrant colour. What a picture of God’s gracious handiwork in our lives!
THE GREAT EXCHANGE
Our wonderful God is the great exchanger:
Beauty for ashes
the oil of joy for mourning
a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness
a robe of righteousness instead of filthy rags
glory instead of shame
perfect love instead of fear
The list just goes on and on. If you’re feeling worthless today, broken or weighed down with sin, then I have good news for you – you’re just the sort of person Jesus came to rescue! He doesn’t wait for you to ‘fix up’ before He adopts you into His family. The only thing you really need to be, is empty. Empty and willing to let a wise and loving Father transform your life into a testimony of redemption, all for His glory! Just like blooms in a barrow.
This time last week, along with many other parents, I was getting ready to go and collect our seven year old, Emily, from school, for the last time in the foreseeable future.
Bit by bit, over the last few weeks, we’ve come under stricter and stricter measures, in response to the Corona Virus Outbreak.
The UK is now on ‘lock-down’, with numbers of confirmed cases multiplying at an exponential rate. Just hours ago we learned that the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has himself contracted the virus and is now self-isolating – please do pray for him and his pregnant partner. Events are changing and unfolding at an alarming rate.
A month ago, phrases such as ‘lock-down’ were spoken only by actors, starring in Apocalyptic movies. Now they are part of our every day language
Everyone is talking about these ‘unprecedented’ times. A year ago, during prayer, God gave me the phrase…”All change!” Well it’s certainly feeling that way.
But could it be…could it possibly be…that in the midst of all this chaos, all of this disruption and upheaval, that God is still bringing about His Sovereign purposes on earth?
A Prophecy Fulfilled
One of the blessings of this lock-down, for me, has been the extended opportunity to study God’s word. I’ve decided to read through the gospel of Matthew.
In Chapter 2, Matthew quotes from the OT book of Micah, foretelling the birth-place of the Messiah.
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you shall come forth a ruler, who will shepherd my people Israel.
In other words, roughly 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Micah foresees it – he speaks of a ruler, a shepherd of Israel, who will come forth from Bethlehem.
For those of us familiar with the Nativity, we know that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. So how on earth did Jesus come to be born in Bethlehem?
Through a governmental decree!
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who he was engaged to and who was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
A governmental decree suddenly brings a sudden halt to business as usual, bringing about disruption and upheaval. Sound familiar?
Joseph has to down-tools, take his pregnant fiancée, and make something like a 90 mile journey to Bethlehem. This would have been an 8 or 9 day hike!
But this unusual event, this governmental edict, was the very vehicle that God used to bring about His Sovereign purpose! Through the decree of a Roman ruler, Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem – not by happen-stance, but by Sovereign design – to fulfil an ancient prophecy! How wonderful.
Could it be that right now, in our day, when governments all around the world are issuing decrees, not to leave, but rather to stay in our homes, that something deeper might be going on?
Is there a possibility, that even now, in these uncertain days, God could be bringing forth His wonderful purposes on earth?
We’re all hearing the stories…
People are slowing down, reflecting and re-evaluating.
Families are eating meals together.
Children are enjoying time with their parents and siblings.
People are ditching their phones and re-discovering the beauty of reading, writing, painting, playing board games or doing jigsaw puzzles.
People are appreciating simple daily freedoms, such as going for a walk.
Parents and children are learning new things together at home.
Bird song is being heard in cities, normally drowned out by the daily din of traffic.
People are being kind to their neighbours, fetching groceries, setting up WhatsApp support groups to support those who are isolated.
People are starting to appreciate others, especially the doctors and nurses and other critical workers out on the frontline.
People are faced with the brevity of life.
People are faced with the instability of finance.
People are opening up their bibles, searching for guidance.
People are inviting others to Online Church Services or sharing messages of hope and encouragement.
A shaking is taking place. A humbling of hearts. A new openness to the good news of Jesus Christ.
Yes it’s challenging. Yes, it’s tough. But let’s be in faith that through this unprecedented set of events, God is still on the throne. He is not shaken. Neither is He perplexed. He is absolutely faithful to all of His promises, and right now, I believe, He is doing something significant in the earth.
Let’s hope that we don’t miss His heartbeat, but yield to whatever lesson He is teaching us. Let’s pray that we come out of this season more conformed into His image.
Let’s be confident, that right now, even though things seem so chaotic, so out of our control, that just like the time of our Saviour’s birth, God is bringing about His Sovereign purposes on Earth. Lord, Thy will be done.
On that day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still! And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Squalls & Storms!
This morning, as we find ourselves in the grip of a growing global health crisis,’ I believe this is such a word in season.
We know the story well. The disciples and Jesus are sailing across the Sea of Galilee, when all of a sudden, a great wind-storm arises. In the book of Matthew, the word ‘squall’ is used, which means a sudden violent wind, or localised storm, especially one bringing rain, snow or sleet.
Isn’t it strange how suddenly trouble can arise? One minute it’s Happy New Year, and the next…we’re lurching from one crisis to the next. Wildfires. Climate change. Plagues of locusts. Deadly viruses. Storms, both literal and metaphoric, are by nature, sudden, violent and unpredictable. And they seem to be increasing in these days.
Don’t You Care?
The waves were ‘breaking into the boat’, and the boat was ‘already’ filling with water. This was not just a risky situ, this was imminent, life-threatening danger. And where was Jesus? Asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat!
The disciples on the other hand, were quite understandably, panicking!
They wake Jesus up, seemingly bemused, as to why He isn’t doing anything!
“Don’t you care that we are perishing?” they say.
Now, perhaps Jesus was in such a deep sleep that He genuinely didn’t realise there was a full-scale hullabaloo going on! But the interesting point is, when He wakes up, He doesn’t immediately start trying to bail out the water and join in the panic. Neither does He apologise for being asleep. At no point does Jesus become subject to the storm.
In the Grip of Fear
Have you noticed how quickly fear can spread? Believe me, it can escalate much faster than any virus! When you witness people fighting and screaming over toilet-roll in the supermarket, you begin to understand just how noxious fear can be.
But have you ever noticed there are two types of fear in this passage?
First we witness the fear of the storm. Highly understandable in many ways. The boat was taking a pounding, it was filling up with water. If things didn’t change very quickly, it was only going one way….Down into the depths.
Jesus rebukes the wind and speaks to the sea: “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceases and there is a great calm.
There are no words to describe how awesome this must have been.
And then Jesus addresses the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
It’s incredible, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t immediately comfort these traumatised disciples, He challenges them! “Why are you so afraid?” Haven’t you seen enough of My power, of My great love and compassion – are you still not yet convinced?
A Different Kind of Fear
And then the scripture tells us that they are filled with GREAT FEAR, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that even the winds and waves obey Him?”
Suddenly they are gripped with the right kind of fear. It’s called the Fear of the Lord. It’s a reverential, awestruck submission. It’s the kind of fear that realises that God is infinitely Higher, and greater and Holier than I could ever imagine -that everything He says and everything He does is always just and right and true. It’s the kind of fear that caused the apostle John to fall down like a dead man at the sight of the Resurrected Jesus, and Isaiah to cry out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!”
Right in this jaw-dropping moment, when all of a sudden the raging sea with it’s high and lofty billows becomes as calm as a millpond, the disciples suddenly SEE. They realise who the real King is.
They see that all along they have been in the boat with someone so powerful, so glorious, so incomprehensible, that they are absolutely undone. All of a sudden, they are filled with the right kind of fear. Internally, they fall to their knees, as they now perceive that the One who stands before them is utterly powerful, absolutely in control, and ultimately worthy of all worship, honour, and glory. Suddenly they are no longer afraid of the storm, because they’ve just locked eyes with the storm-stopper!
So in the midst of this very real crisis, let’s ask God to help us not to give in to fear and panic. Despite the rising water level, despite the numbers of confirmed cases increasing by the hour, despite the chaos we can see all around us & the media overplaying, (or politicians underplaying) things, and despite the ensuing panic and disruption that may well come, let’s press on, rebuking the storm and trusting in the storm-stopper!
In these stormy times, in the face of this sudden squall, I pray we will be governed by the right kind of fear, the fear of the Lord, which so wondrously displaces any other.
I don’t know about you, but I always find New Year a bit strange. Whether it’s a fireworks display, a party, or even just a quiet night in, watching Jules Holland on TV, inevitably, the big moment comes…
The countdown… For those of us in the UK, the arrival of the New Year is usually marked by the familiar sound of Big Ben chiming – and with each resounding BONG, we find ourselves joining in the chant – “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one….”
And then, with great gusto, we’re off! Pulling those strings on our party-poppers and shouting HAPPY NEW YEAR!
And to the sound of Auld Lang Syne, off we go, kissing and hugging everyone – & I mean EVERYONE – (even people we hardly know) and wishing them a Happy New Year.
And there’s that weird sense of anticipation… In one moment, in a single second, we’ve collectively crossed over a threshold. There are so many analogies, aren’t there? A blank page. A new chapter. A brand new book! A fresh start. A clean slate. Ring out the old, ring in the new.
Resolutions are made.
This is the year I’m going to: ______________________ (you fill in the blank!)
And there’s that feeling, isn’t there? Things really ought to be different. Yesterday is gone. A line is firmly drawn under last year. Now, things can only get better.
And then quick as a flash, magazines start to appear, with their New Year slogans:
New Year, New Start!
Ten steps to a brand new you!
New Year Detox – A Diet you can finally stick to!
It sounds good, doesn’t it? Inspiring. But…deep down inside, there’s this underlying sense of reality. Nothing significant has actually changed. You look in the mirror. Same face. Same need to face the day. The washing up needs doing. That old pile of ironing…yep. It’s still there.
Special as it is, Jan 1st is just another day. You don’t wake up any different. In reality, you’re just the same old you.
And by about January 17th, usually once you’ve broken your resolve and stuffed your face with the remnants of a box of chocolates you forgot you had, it can all feel like a bit of a let-down. It’s just the same old, same old.
BUT, dear Reader Friends, there is good news!
It beautifully dawned on me yesterday whilst I was driving. I had my worship playlist on in the car. And all of a sudden as I was pondering what the New Year might have in store…I heard these words:
Your mercies are new, over and over,
Your mercies are new, over and over,
As surely as the morning comes, You’re faithful!
I’ll sing of Your love, over and over,
I’ll sing of Your love, over and over,
I’ll sing with every setting sun,
(Over and Over, by Chris McClarney, from the 2018 album, ‘Breakthrough’)
This is what the word of God says:
The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER CEASES,
His mercies NEVER COME TO AN END
They are NEW EVERY MORNING,
Great is Thy Faithfulness!
With the dawning of every day, regardless of whether it’s 1st January, or 25th April, or 7th September…each and every day that I live and breathe, I’m given a fresh start. A gift! A brand new day, with new mercies to be found. Not yesterday’s leftovers. Nope. God’s mercies are new every morning. Oh sweet truth!
I might start the new year with good intentions…only to fail. But my God, He never fails. He never grows weary. His steadfast love never ceases. His mercies don’t run out of puff. They are always fresh, always new. Never failing, never ceasing. And with every setting sun, if I’m intentional enough to count my blessings, I’ll be able to say, “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
I love a good game of Spot the difference, don’t you?…
Have a good look at these two sets of pictures. They are both photos of the tomato plants that I’m currently trying to grow.
Now tell me…what’s the difference?
That’s the difference! Set one is a photo of my tomato plants when I got back from my holiday a few weeks back. (What a sad and sorrowful sight!)
Set two is a photo of my tomato plants the following morning, after a great big, refreshing drink of water.
It’s remarkable, isn’t it?!
I don’t think I’ve ever come across plants that are quite as thirsty as these. If you forget to water them for a single day, they literally droop and wilt and look all but dead.
But give them a good old glug of water, and half an hour later, they completely revive!
Have you ever been thirsty? Have you ever experienced that dryness in your mouth and throat, that feeling of agitation, of desperation, where all you can think about is water?
The trouble is, just like my tomato plants, one drink of water is not enough. We need to keep drinking in order to survive.
The Woman at the Well
Jesus had an interesting chat with a woman at a well once. They were talking about water. I guess when you’re standing at a well, water is a fairly obvious thing to talk about. In fact, Jesus dares to ask the woman to draw him some water.
According to the gospel of John, this rather surprises the woman:
You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews and Samaritans do not associate with one another).
Jesus answers her:
If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”
Ok, what is Jesus doing here? He’s gone from talking about H2O – literal, physical water- to something entirely spiritual.
The conversation twists and turns like this for a while, with the Samaritan woman still not really seeing, not really perceiving.
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become to them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Through a series of further interchanges, Jesus lovingly draws this woman out. It’s as if He sees right into the depths of her heart and reveals all the emptiness within. This woman has been desperately thirsty. She’s been searching for years and years – desperately yearning – for a love that lasts – that really satisfies. Jesus sends the bucket right deep down into the depths of her soul. Why? Not to make her feel ashamed. But because He knows her lack. He really, truly sees her. He rightly discerns that she’s had five husbands. And that she’s not married to her current lover. This woman cannot seem to find what she’s looking for. She cannot seem to quench her thirst. She’s placing all her hope in human relationships, going from husband to husband, lover to lover – looking for true love and happiness, where it just can’t be found. It’s like she’s got this desperate, insatiable thirst.
Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again…
Are you thirsty today? Are you searching down an empty well?
Money. Sex. Relationships. Fame and popularity. Success. Likes on Social Media. Drugs. Booze. Possessions. Houses. Careers. Ambitions fulfilled. Children. Family. Clothes. Holidays.
All of these things can fill a void temporarily. But the trouble is, they won’t bring lasting satisfaction.
Don’t get me wrong, some of these things aren’t BAD in themselves. Some of these things are gifts from God, meant to be enjoyed. But the point is, sometimes we focus on the gift, forgetting that the most beautiful thing about a gift, is the giver.
There is nothing on earth that can fill the God-shaped void within each one of us. These things may momentarily quench something within our souls. But they will always, always leave us thirsting for more.
The good news is, God wants to give us His LIVING WATER – What’s Living Water? The type of water that fully satisfies. The type of drink that puts an end to all our searching. We will never find lasting satisfaction in the temporal, in the carnal, in the things we spend our time and money acquring, the things we try to hopelessly keep stuffing into the empty places.
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
At last, the Samaritan woman finds it! She finds the living Water as she talks with Jesus at the well. She comes to understand that HE is the living water – He is the end of all our thirsting. When we meet Jesus, and fully understand who He is, and the gift of salvation that He brings, we will never thirst again. Rivers of LIVING WATER will flow from our inner most being. If you’re thirsty today, then the following invitation, from Jesus, is for you…
‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’
Blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise –
Once there were two builder guys,
One was foolish, one was wise.
Built their houses by the shore,
Bang, Tap, Hammer, Saw!
Both their houses looked so grand,
One on rock, the other sand,
Who’s been foolish, can you tell?
Who’s built badly, who’s built well?
Trees are swaying, skies are grey,
Who knew it would rain today?!
Run inside, shut the door,
Looks like it’s about to pour
Thunder cracks – what a din!
A sudden storm is rolling in,
Rain is falling, waters rise,
Now we’ll see which man was wise.
The storm keeps raging all day long,
And the house on the rock keeps standing strong,
But creak, wobble, crash, bang, SPLAT!
The house on the sand has fallen flat!
A Story Jesus Told…
Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and actson them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall!
Which kind of man did Jesus say was wise?
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them…
Which kind of man did Jesus say was foolish?
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act upon them…
Both of these guys HEARD. Both of these men built houses – that’s pretty clever, right?
But only one of them built on the right foundation. Only one of these houses was founded on the rock.
Hearing God’s word is not enough to make us wise. We need to obey, if we want our lives to be founded upon the rock.
When the storms came…
It wasn’t until the storms came, that we found out which man had built wisely.
When the storms of life come – our foundations will be tested. Is your life founded on the rock of Jesus Christ, on His death and resurrection, and on His free gift of righteousness? Or are you trying to build on your own foundation?
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of friendship.
We all need Friends!
Now, here’s a confession. I can be quite an introverted person, if I’m not careful. I’m very happy spending time alone. I often crave peace and quiet and a bit of space to think and ponder. I like to potter about. I like to express myself through the written word and arrange my thoughts in my own time, in my own way.
My Father-In-Law, Bill, is wired the same way. We get on like a house on fire! Both of us love to read, and visit places of interest, and generally ponder life quietly to ourselves. We’re real kindred spirits.
Bill lives on his own. Not through choice. He became a widower in 2013. Recently he’s been coming up to stay with us a bit more often, because sadly, life without Helen, can be lonely at times.
Whether you’re young, old, married, single, intravert or extravert- whatever age or stage in life you’re in – We all need good friends!
Friendship -true companionship – is such a gift. Sometimes, when it’s right under our nose, we can take it for granted. I know I often do.
Friendships can spring up in the most unlikely places, between the most unlikely of people – or animals!
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
The Gift of Friendship
So today I want to honour God for friendship. I want to be thankful for my loved ones, near and dear, and for every friend I’ve ever laughed with, cried with, prayed with, played with.
Friends old, friends new – friends I hardly ever see, friends I rub shoulders with every day. Friends I’m only just getting to know, friends that have been in my life for as long as I can remember.
Friends that have cared for me, encouraged me, cheered me on, sent me a note, called me, hugged me, helped me, challenged me, inspired me, guided me – and just been a ray of sunshine in my life.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly kindness. Outdo one another in showing honour.
Today, I recognise that I need to be more intentional about friendship – I want to think about others more. I want to smile more, listen more, give more of my time.
Today, I want to be a better friend.
To finish, I’d like to recommend a beautiful film (based on a book by R.J.Palacio) that celebrates friendships in it’s many forms – It’s called ‘Wonder.’
If you’ve got a moment, I’d love you to join in. Please share one of your favourite books, films, or stories about friendship in the comments section below.
Recently, my daughter Emily has discovered one of my favourite childhood books, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s a beautiful story about a long forgotten garden, and the lives of the characters who discover it, gradually being restored.
In the following extract, the main character, Mary, (with the help of a friendly Robin) finally gets into the the secret garden, which has been locked up for ten years.
Mary’s heart began to thump and her hands to shake a little in her delight and excitement. The robin kept singing and twittering away and tilting his head on one side, as if he were as excited as she was. What was this under her hands which was square and made of iron which her fingers found a hole in? It was the lock of the door that had been closed ten years, and she put her hand in her pocket, drew out the key, and found it fitted the keyhole. She put the key in and turned it. It took two hands to do it, but it did turn.
And then she took a long breath and looked behind her up the long walk to see if anyone was coming. No one was coming. No one ever did come, it seemed, and she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door, which opened slowly – slowly.
Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.
She was standing inside the secret garden.
The Robin Who Showed the Way, Chapter 8 – The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Place of Delight
Right at the start God placed mankind in a garden. Have you ever wondered why?
The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight, and good for food.
Whether or not you like gardening, I’m sure everyone of us would agree that spending time in a well-tended garden can have an extremely restorative effect on the soul.
From the above verse, we learn that God not only planted trees and greenery to give us nourishing food, but also as a visual feast for the eye to behold! Scientists have discovered that green is the most restful colour for the human eye to gaze upon. And God made an abundance of it! What an amazingly kind and generous Father!
Many biblical scholars talk about Eden being a place where Adam and Eve walked and talked with the Lord, in perfect intimacy and without any shame. The name Eden itself, means delight!
We all know of course, the sad story of the fall. Of how this amazing openness and trust between God and man was stolen by Satan, the father of lies.
We hear about how God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden, and placed the cherubim and the flaming sword to guard the way back to garden.
We also know, that right at the start, in midst of the garden, stood the tree of life! The good news is, that even before the foundation of the world, even before mankind sinned, Jesus, the lamb of God, was slain on the tree to restore us to right relationship with the Father!
Open the gates – The King of Glory is Coming In!
When you become a Christian and surrender your life to Jesus, it’s a bit like giving Him the keys to a locked-up garden! The King of glory comes to take up residence within us! In comes the Master Gardener to do His incredible, transformative, work in the garden of our hearts.
I have a very small garden – it’s about 55 feet long. When we moved into our house, ten years ago, it was literally a terraced lawn, flanked by two small strips of sun-baked earth. It had not plant, nor flower, nor anything remotely beautiful about it. The only thing it did have, was a ton of weeds, and a ton of potential!
My mum has always had a love for gardening – I learned from watching her over the years, that if you want to sit in a nice garden, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get digging! And so I began…
Turning over the soil was hard graft. Removing all the stones and stubborn weeds was painstakingly laborious. The groundwork was probably 80-90 percent of the job. And it’s an ongoing task!
Ten years later, after much trial and error, weeding and digging, procrastinating and persevering, I now have a place where I can sit on a warm summer’s evening and enjoy the colour that each season brings, plus the occasional visit from a robin or a blue-tit. It is my delight. Not because it is yet perfect, but because it’s come on such a long way!
When you go and visit a beautiful garden, it’s so easy to miss the hours of work that have gone into it. What we don’t see, are the unseen hands and feet that have spent hours and hours digging and weeding and pruning and mowing. The garden, in many ways, is just the outward display. But it’s the unseen effort, that has taken place, perhaps whilst the garden was closed, probably in the early hours of the morning, when nobody was watching that has made all the difference.
Aren’t our lives a bit like this?
Much of the fruit that we display in our lives, is formed
and fashioned in the secret place. It’s
the times when we’re alone with Jesus, often in the early hours, when nobody is
watching, when God’s handiwork is really done.
The Secret Place
“But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Today, I believe God is calling us afresh, through the rusty gate, down the path, and into the garden – to the secret place. He longs to meet with each one of us on a daily basis. To walk and talk with us in the cool of the day. Today, if you listen carefully, I believe that you might just hear Him calling you.
Will you trust me? Will you yield to Me and allow Me to have My way in your life? Will you allow Me to root out the stubborn sins that spoil and choke growth? Will you seek after me with all your heart, and spend time with Me in the secret place when nobody is watching.
I know exactly what kind of garden I want you to be. I have a unique design and plan for each one of you. I want your life to reflect My beauty and My glory. I want you to carry My fragrance and to become a place that others can come to for rest and refreshment.
Today I stand at the door and knock – will you open the door of your heart?
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like the following:
This morning I had to perform a three-point-turn in front of a group of builders. They were digging up the road ahead of me.
Oh the embarrassment.
I’ve been driving for over 25 years now, and it’s a manouvre I know perfectly well how to perform…Except when I have an audience.
The road was exceedingly narrow. There were parked cars all around. Oh the pressure! Come on Ange. You can do this. Just keep calm and carry on.
The builders, seemed to enjoy the opportunity to help a damsel in distress, and soon got involved, beckoning me backwards, gesticulating wildly.
I’m happy to report that I made it, unscathed! But I must admit, it was quite a relief to pull away and get out of that tight spot!
I’ve just been reading Psalm 118, and I came across the following verses:
From my distress I called upon the Lord. The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
My bible notes showed me that the word ‘distress’ here, literally means ‘tight place’.
The Psalmist is proclaiming that in his distress; his predicament; his tight spot, he called upon the Lord, and the Lord provided an enlargement, a rescue plan, a way of escape, a broad place -God sets us free!
Maybe you’ve lost a job or have financial pressures. Maybe you’ve got a job, but you’re up to your eyeballs in stress. Perhaps you’re battling with ill health. Perhaps, like me, you’ve got a house full of teenagers…Wow – can that feel overwhelming at times?! Or a house full of little ones, and you’re exhausted with sleepless nights. Perhaps you’re going through a difficulty in your marriage.
Life is full of pressure, that’s for sure.
I just want to encourage you today – if you’re in a tight spot, if you’re feeling like the pressures of life have got you hemmed in, then call upon the Lord! He is our strong deliverer! He may not remove the situation entirely, but He is the God who is able to ‘relieve us in our distress,’ (Psalm 4:1). He is the God who takes our burdens upon His own shoulders, saying: ‘Cast your cares on Me, for I care for you!” (1 Peter 5:7)
I pray that if you are in a tight spot today, that you will know God as your deliverer. I pray that as you wait on Him, He will renew your strength, and you will experience Him lifting you up, on wings as eagles, into a broader place, where you will find the space to breath again!